8 Traits of Effective Church Leaders

8 Traits of Effective Church Leaders
Thomas Rainer

While examining what makes effective church leaders can be a helpful exercise for everyone involved in congregational life, I am a bit reluctant to articulate these characteristics. I am concerned that some may take this information and reduce it to a neat, quick-fix formula. Others may interpret this approach as so human-centered it denies the reality of a sovereign God. Nevertheless, in our studies of churches that are reaching people and retaining them through biblical discipleship we have seen a very clear pattern develop, especially in contrast to leaders in churches that did
not meet our criteria.

Keep in mind that it is the total and the composition of these traits that distinguish the effective leaders from other leaders. Many less effective leaders share some-but not all-of these traits. I will refer to these leaders as pastors, although some of the churches used other nomenclature, such as ministers or elders.

The qualities

Regardless of the term, effective leaders embrace:

1. Fierce biblical faithfulness. Without exception, these pastors held to the total truthfulness of God’s Word. Not only did they believe the veracity of Scripture, they passionately lived out their beliefs.

2. Longer tenure. The leaders we studied are willing and want to have a long-term ministry at one church. While longer tenure itself is not the key to effective leadership, a series of short-term pastorates rarely allows one time to establish lasting leadership. In one of our national surveys, we found the average pastoral tenure to be 3.6 years. But in other studies of effective leaders, those pastors had an average tenure ranging from 11.2 to 21.6 years.

3. Confident humility. In our subjective interviews across the nation, our interviewers repeatedly observed that these leaders had a clear and compelling confidence about their own leadership. Yet, that confidence was not arrogance. To the contrary, their confidence centered more on what God was doing and less on their inherent abilities.

4. Acceptance of responsibility. These leaders did not express excuses for ineffective ministry, even though many of them experienced prolonged periods of struggle. Instead, these pastors accepted the leadership responsibility that comes with their position. They refused to blame circumstances or other people when inevitable times of conflict and challenge occurred.

5. Unconditional love of the people. Ministry can be dirty. Christians can be jerks. It is difficult to love those who regularly complain or attack you. But these effective leaders, with no claims of perfection, still expressed an intense love for the members of their congregations. In some measure, they have learned to love as Christ loved us.

6. Persistence. Because these leaders have a long-term perspective of their ministries at the churches where they serve, they are able to lead toward progress one incremental step at a time. That is not to say they have a “laissez-faire” attitude; to the contrary, these pastors are incredibly persistent.

7. Outwardly-focused vision. An integral part of the lives of these effective leaders was their passion and vision to reach people who were not Christians and not a part of their churches. To say that these leaders are evangelistically focused would be an understatement. They are passionate about reaching the lost and unchurched, and the visions they communicated inevitably reflected this priority.

8. A desire for a lasting legacy. The ambition and drive of these leaders cannot be denied. But that ambition is not limited to personal success. They are ambitious for their churches to thrive and remain healthy well beyond their ministries and even their lifetimes.

Following their example

In the final analysis, we cannot know how much of such leadership skills are innate and how much can be acquired. These leaders will tell you, however, that they have made significant strides in becoming better leaders. Such are their testimonies. Perhaps in God’s strength, we can follow these examples and become the types of leaders God wants us to be.

Thomas Rainer is the president and CEO LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a church and denominational consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of nearly two dozen books. From: www.churchcentral.com web site. June 2012.

The above article, “8 Traits of Effective Church Leaders,” was written by Thomas Rainer. The article was retrieved from www.churchcentral.com, where it was posted in June of 2012.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.